Nicolas Tackett

Nicolas Tackett

Fellow: Awarded 2018
Field of Study: East Asian Studies

Competition: US & Canada

Nicolas Tackett was born in Boudevilliers, Switzerland, and now resides in Oakland, CA. He has degrees from Stanford (biology) and Columbia (Chinese history). Currently, he is Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley, where he teaches courses on pre-modern China and global history. His first book, The Destruction of the Medieval Chinese Aristocracy, sought to explain the long-term survival and then the complete disappearance of the great aristocratic families that dominated political life in China during much of the first millennium CE. His second book, The Origins of the Chinese Nation: Song China and the Forging of an East Asian World Order, explored the evolution of a “national consciousness” among Chinese educated elites of the eleventh-century, an evolution occurring in the context of concomitant developments in the East Asian inter-state system. Both books made extensive use of biographical and geographical databases, and strove to demonstrate the useful application of digital methodologies to the study of history.

As a Guggenheim Fellow, Professor Tackett will work on a third book, entitled The Rise of the Chinese Meritocracy: The Transformation of Elite Culture in Tenth-Century China. This book is a sequel to his first book (and an elaboration of his Ph.D. dissertation). It examines the rise in the tenth and early eleventh centuries of a new ethos favoring merit over blood as a primary marker of status. This cultural shift came in the wake of the destruction of the medieval aristocracy, and explains why a new aristocracy did not emerge in the Song period. Instead, by the early eleventh century, the civil service examination had become a major avenue of recruitment into the bureaucracy. Professor Tackett explains this cultural shift in part on the basis of the extensive migrations of the tenth century, which resulted in the reconstitution of an entirely new political elite at the capital of the early Song Dynasty.

Profile photograph by Zoe Tackett

Father: Tim Tackett, Guggenheim Fellow in French History, 1986

Scroll to Top